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Family Fights for Boy to Play on Field Hockey Team

Southampton's Keeling Pilaro told he can't play on the traditionally female varsity team for another season, Newsday reports. Athletic director says school is appealing to Section XI to let him play.

A eighth-grade boy was permitted to play varsity field hockey with the team last fall, but Section XI has decided that he cannot compete on the girls team again when the new season starts, according to Newsday.

The attorney for the family of Keeling Pilaro, a 13-year-old boy who learned field hockey while living in Ireland, told Newsday that, after exhausting all appeals through Section XI, Suffolk County's governing body for high school sports, the family intends to sue to demand Keeling be permitted to play.

But the Section XI attorney said that Keeling's participation in the sport precluded a female player from receiving all-conference honors last fall, and that, as one of the league's top scorers, his playing could prevent an all-female team from making the playoffs, Newsday reports.

"I feel bad for the kid, because I know how much he likes to play and he's been part of the program for two years," Southampton School District Athletic Director Darren Phillips told Patch Thursday afternoon.

Phillips said the rule regarding allowing a boy to play on a girls team concerns whether it will have an "adverse effect" on the game — a rule he said is subjective.

"He's not taking any spots away from girls on out team, as far as cuts," Phillips said of Keeling.

In the past, girls have played on boys tennis, football and soccer teams in Southampton, he noted.

The school district filed for a hearing date with a Section XI committee on May 15, when Southampton will make its case to allow Keeling to play, Phillips said. He explained that a player's school, not his family, must make the appeal.

Phillips said he hopes the committee will see the matter from the perspective of promoting child development.

"You want them to be the best they can be as an athlete," Phillip said, adding that now Keeling is being told he's "too good."

Learn more at Newsday.com. (Subscription may be required)

Patrice Stevens April 26, 2012 at 07:19 PM
In other words, the parents of the girl who didnt make all conference complained. Now this boy is being kicked off the team.He is smaller than most of the girls in the leauge, so what exactly is his advantage. He is not good because he is a boy, he is good because he's been playing all off his life. I wonder, if he is kicked off, will the young lady who didnt make all conference make it? Or will there be some other reason for her to complain. He's better, but not because he a boy. So let him play.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 07:41 PM
Patrice, In the way I phrased the article, I did not mean to imply that anyone specific was denied all-conference honors. Just that, a boy received an award that traditionally goes to female athletes — not one specific girl.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Via Southampton Patch's Facebook page, Kim told us her take on the matter: i know this young man....he has a passion for field hockey because of his years in Ireland.Field hockey is not available to students here on LI so he should be allowed to play as long as he is not a detriment to the players around him...at 4 foot 8 and 82 lbs he is smaller in stature then most of the girls on his and other teams he brings a love for the game that is infectious to those around him and brings the team up on a whole. while against lower ability teams he does do better then most of the girls but against strong teams he is in the middle of the pack just like all the other team mates. You will find that many if not most of the other coaches on his competing teams respect him and don't mind him playing. Those people who say he is too good to be on a girls team should go and watch the games before making a judgment against him. Also if they were not going to let him on the team in this year they should have never let him on the team to begin with. he has not changed dramatically in stature and his abilities have improved at the same rate as you would hope all the other teammates would improve also. He has also obeyed all the written rules to the letter. even to the point where the athletic committee forced him to where a skirt because this was the school uniform.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Kim continued: This young man is a good, kind, lovable young student who has a desire to play a game he has loved for years! he does not drink do drugs bully or do anything wrong that we hope to help have our young people strive for as human beings ....he just wants to play! leave him alone!
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Lisa commented on Southampton Patch's Facebook page as well, with a thoughtful answer as to whether Keeling should be allowed to play: My daughter is a Senior, and one of several stand-out veteran members of the Southampton High School field hockey team and as a parent I have had the pleasure of watching Keeling play alongside his teammates on umpteen occasions. Field hockey is a team sport and to single out one player as being over-skilled does not merely diminish the roles played by the other team members, it downright acts as if they don’t exist. As in any team sport, the participants practice their plays over and over again, until quite literally, they can perform them in their sleep. Watching game after game for the past 6 years I have found that all the Varsity level teams against whom we have competed, have their 2 or 3 “go to” players when it comes time to score.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Lisa continued: My daughter plays defense and midfield, her job is to prevent goals or as a middie, to feed it to the front line. She has played her positions well, and has received awards each year including this year being named to the All LI 2nd Team – should she have been denied the opportunity to play because she was over-skilled at her position(s)? Would any female player be similarly denied? Would Keeling be allowed to play if he was a defender as opposed to a forward? Were the videos showing Keeling’s “superior stick play…” from games against lesser opponents, or of our more closely matched opponents? Because I didn’t just watch a few videos - I attended every single game - home and away - during the past 2 seasons, and I can tell you with great certainty that I witnessed more than just a few players who were at, or exceeded Keeling’s skill level.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 07:48 PM
Lisa again: The reality is that Keeling does not skew our team’s chances for winning - certainly not based on his sex or skill level. This would not be an issue if he were a 13 year old, under 5 foot, under 90 lb female. Keeling has in the past stated that he does not think he is the best forward on our team nor is he the worst – and even if he were the best, no similarly abled female players, in this very small school, were sidelined in order for him to play. All Varsity teams play to win and to that end they send their most proficient players to the field at game time. Keeling was 11th on the cited list – there are 10 players ahead of him. No one would dare to even suggest that these girls are too skilled to play. Additionally, it does not appear that the committee has taken into account the context of Keeling’s membership on the SHS field hockey team. We are a small school numbering no more than 600 students. This year, the team is graduating 12 Seniors and there is concern that we may not be able to readily recoup those losses – to disallow even 1 player could prove detrimental to this program as a whole.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 07:48 PM
And Lisa's conclusion: A recent article in Newsday leads me to believe that female players or their coaches/parents were upset that their player may have been passed over for a particular award given by the Suffolk County Field Hockey Coaches Association. If this is the case, and I hope I am wholly incorrect, then truly the issue should have been handled and addressed by the SCFHCA, the awarding agency – whose members, if I understand the process correctly, after each game pick who they believe were the outstanding players during that game. For Section XI to step in and deny Keeling the opportunity to compete with his teammates because he exhibits “advanced skills” shows that the organization is grasping at straws, trying to find a reason other than physical advantage to keep Keeling off the field. Southampton High School is not attempting to field a team of male players – this is one boy, in one instance, in a very small school of approximately 600 children total. I urge the Director of Section XI to charge the committee with examining the real reasons for the decision, pay heed to the words of Keeling’s teammates past and present, rethink their decision and let him play – not only because it’s the right thing to do in this case, but because Title IX in order to protect everyone’s rights must be applied fairly both ways.
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 07:49 PM
Michael commented via Southampton Patch's Facebook page: "As a graduate of SHS (class of '76) and having two daughters who played field hockey in central NY I am of the opinion that the player should play gender notwithstanding. It seems to me that this player has a pretty good Title IX case."
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 27, 2012 at 04:50 AM
Keeling's story has made the rounds to Fox 5, Newsday, 1010 WINS and now The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/26/keeling-pilaro-male-field-hockey-girls-team_n_1456126.html?ncid=edlinkusaolp00000003&ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false
Brendan J. O'Reilly (Editor) April 27, 2012 at 01:58 PM
Joe comments via Southampton Patch's Facebook page: "It's called title nine, its one of the first things you are taught as a teacher, it applies to everyone, not sure how they can stop him from playing if he is not a detriment to other players. Title IX is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, U.S. legislation also identified using the name of its principal author as the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act. It states that No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance... —Title 20 U.S.C. Sections 1681-1688"
Kris May 04, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Field Hockey was the only sport that I truly enjoyed playing in High School, but there was no male team, and joining the girls team was out of the question( I was a Goliath that utterly dominated on Defense in gym class ), and zero prospects of there ever being one. It seems the only time young men are allowed to have a sport in school or college, is if the school or college can make a buck off of it. Garbage like this seems intentional. Like all the old feminists and their allies want to "teach young men what it is like" before they croak.

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